Album Review: The Smiths, Self Titled Debut (1984)

As a publicly devoted fan of The Smiths, I will try and review this album with as little bias as possible, although that is difficult to prove with how amazing I’m about to tell you this album is. Trust me, this is an opinion held by many in regards to this indie classic. Placed on numerous lists counting down the Greatest albums of all time, it’s clear that even from their début album, The Smiths had secured a legacy for themselves to be remembered by.

The Smiths’ self titled début album charting at number 2 in the UK Albums Chart (staying on the chart for 33 weeks) proved successful both critically and commercially. The album established The Smiths as a prominent band in the 1980’s music scene. 

The album has a terrific track listing, with singles such as the ever popular ‘This charming man’ as well as the Smiths first ever single ‘Hand in Glove’ appearing for the first time on this album, it’s not difficult to see why this album was (and still is) loved by fans and critics alike. Singles aren’t the only brilliant thing this album brought us though, how about the opening track; ‘reel around the fountain’, some would call it a love song although that could be debated, with Morrissey’s use of metaphors and ambiguity it’s sometimes hard to fathom what many of his songs are actually about. This track provides a solid beginning to the album, a slow paced song in comparison to the rest of the album, and now a fan favourite. 

The change in pace throughout the album always keeps the listener engaged, and definitely works in the bands’favour, never making two songs sound the same. Songs such as ‘Miserable Lie’ definitely showcase this, with the change in tempo from a slow opening, almost setting up for a ballad, to a sudden shift into a punk-rock feel with fast guitar and drum beats almost surprising the listener on their first few listens of the song, as it’s so unexpected, but despite this is still works undeniably well. 

Track 10, the final song on side B of this album is named ‘Suffer little children’, it was penned by Morrissey about the Moors murders which took place in Manchester when Morrissey was young. This is a brilliantly morbid track, and actually one of my favourites from this album, however this was the first (of soon to be many) instances the singer sparked controversy, as he named some of the victims of the murders in his lyrics. This lead to some shops refusing to sell the album, and made some radio stations reluctant to play their songs. 

This album’s only downside to me (and to many others) is it’s production quality. Initially produced by Troy Tate, the band felt his production of the album to be sub-par so went on to have it re-recorded by John Porter. Despite having it re-recorded, Morrissey has still been known to criticise the production values of the album stating it “let down all involved”. Morrissey thought that the album wasn’t good enough, and released it only due to it’s cost to make. 

This self titled debut was also the first time the Smiths made use of their now signature album covers. As with all of the Smiths’ sleeves, the  artwork was designed by Morrissey, this time to feature American actor Joe Dallesandro in a still from Andy Warhol’s 1968 film ‘Flesh’. 

Morrissey’s distinctive voice and lyrical style, paired with Johnny Marr’s flowing guitar chords instantly set them apart from other Manchester artists of the period e.g Joy Division & The Fall. One of their greatest accomplishments even to this day is creating a style/sound that others often attempt to mimic, but no one ever achieves, leaving the Smiths on their own pedestal that no one ever seems to be able to come close to.  

Listening to this album (or any of the Smiths work) in 2016 really is a pleasure, due to them always creating their own unique sound and style, and incorporating themes that’re still relevant even today means their music never really ages. They’re not typical 80’s. In fact there not “typical” anything. They stand alone as one of the most important bands of the 80’s still influencing new generations of fans today, and still are deemed as important as ever to music culture. 

The Smiths, although only a band for a mere 5 years, managed something not many have achieved before or since. Lead singer Morrissey is an original in the true sense of the word. 

They created music that will be enjoyed for many years to come, even though they split up so many years ago, they left such a legacy behind with Johnny Marr’s signature jangling guitar sounds, and Morrissey’s quirky lyrics, there never will be another band like the Smiths. 

I rate this album 9/10! 

(P.s Keep checking the site, more reviews to come as I’m gradually going back though the entire catalogue of The Smiths and Morrissey…keep your eyes peeled!)

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